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1956 Hungarian Revolution, Roundtable Discussion at HRFA

Frank Kapitan, manager of Washington Branch of HRFA, speaking next to Zsuzsa and Imre Toth1/26/2006 - Hungarian Reformed Federation's Washington Branch sponsors 1956 Roundtable Discussion...AHF members joined 1956 Freedom Fighters and Washington-area Hungarians in a roundtable discussion sponsored by the Washington Chapter of the Hungarian Reformed Federation of American (HRFA). Branch Manager, Frank Kapitan (seen here), opened the discussion and asked participants to share their personal experiences related to 1956 and discuss the lessons learned and implications of the revolution in today's world. AHF member ZsuzsaToth transcribed those experiences which can be found below.

Participants included many 1956 Freedom Fighter such as Imre Toth, last surviving Secretary of the Revolutionary Committee for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Imre Nagy government, and Per Bang Jensen, whose UN diplomat father died mysteriously after outspokenly supporting the Hungarian Freedom Fighters. AHF's Bryan Dawson-Szilagyi remarked that "unity" and "common purpose" was the lesson to learn from the heroic fight for freedom.

Chartered by Congress in 1896, HRFA, a fraternal organization offering life insurance and financing, is one of the Hungarian-American community's most important and enduring organizations.

TRANSCRIPT (Photos Bryan Dawson-Szilagyi, AHF News Service)

Frank Kapitan opens the discussion on the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionFrank Kapitan: How many of you know that the Hungarian Reformed Federation is an insurance company?

(Now we know.)

FK: OK, now you know. It's a fraternal insurance company, over a hundred years old, chartered by Congress over a hundred years ago. I am the manager of the Washington area branch.

The main reason we are here today is to make sure that everybody knows that this is the Hungarian Reformed Federation, the second is 1956. I would like this to be an open discussion and the process will be that I'd like to go around and those who wish introduce themselves and go down the list of agenda and cover some of it, as a guideline, just as a part of an introduction. So we know who came from what experiences and background. After we finish that, we go into the discussion.

And I'd like to ask you to keep your speech for no more than 5 minutes. Obviously I'm not going to cut somebody off but let's make sure we give a chance to everybody. Another thing I ask you, once we get into the discussion, no yelling. One other thing, Toth Zsuzsa volunteered to record the proceedings, if anybody has an objection, tell me, we can shut it off. The reason is why we want to record it, maybe we'll hear some interesting experiences, memories worth writing down. In fact, Brian volunteered to make a web page of today's event.

The reason we are speaking in English because there are some people who don't speak Hungarian, and I am easier in English. Of course, I can't speak either Hungarian and "dadogok" in English too.

So I will read the second sentence to kind of focus on what we want to do: We want to know how after 50 years the revolution and its impact on the world is viewed, assessed and thought of by people who experienced the revolution, first, and the second part, people who were not there during the revolution, it's just as important, that they share with us their views and sentiments of the revolution. I will start my 5 minutes here and see if I can do within 5 minutes.

In September of 1956 I just started Gymnasium on the Moricz Zsigmond Korter in Buda which is very close to the Technical University in Budapest. As it happened, I heard about the march to the Bem Statue and I left school and joined the march to the Bem Statue. By the way that was the last time I've seen that school, I never went back there. And after the march to the Bem Statue with the students from all over I ended up at the Radio, I was there when the shooting started and next morning I remember there were people, dead bodies were stocked up at the entrance of the Radio building, that's one of my impressions of the revolution. The remaining part of the revolution to me is almost like a fog, I was at lots of places but I don't remember when. For example I don't remember what I did when I was shooting, was it before or after the Russians came in. Anyway, one of my main experiences during the revolution was the infamous participation in the siege of the Party House on Koztarsasag Ter. Which some of you heard of, we'll discuss it later, it was a very bloody affair. And just to make sure that I remember it, here is a shell from the tank which was shooting at the party house. It's a shell I was helping to load the tanks when they ran out of ammunition and for some reason I saved this shell and my father actually buried it in our basement and a friend of my who was teaching at the FBI Academy in Budapest brought it out.

I left Hungary December 1, 1956. My 15th birthday was December 3, 1956. I sent a message to my mother from the "Tizenot Eves Kapitany". This was one of my favorite books, Jules Verne's the Fifteen Year Old Captain. Another point just before I go further, the way I got out is my mother sent me out for some coffee and I sent her the coffee from Austria. So that's my story, this was about 4 minutes.

Zoli, you want to start?

Zoltan Bagdy shares his experiences during the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionZoltan Bagdy: Well, I'll be very brief. My buddies and I went to the Bem Statue for the demonstrations. And I was shocked that mostly college kids, university kids were there, and they didn't want any outsiders involved. And I was offended by this but I realized it was for safety, security and so on. Then we proceeded to the Parliament that afternoon and that night and I guess I didn't get home till about midnight. In subsequent days and weeks my parents and I walked the town and my most vivid impression was that, and it's very hard to explain, that everybody was so happy. It was something akin to love, but not the same thing. It was a glow on faces, people looked at each other and exchanged looks of good wishes, and I never ever after experienced anything like that. So we debated whether to leave the county. My father said that everything is going to be OK here, so we stay. By the end of December we realized that it wasn't so. So too late, unfortunately, we decided to leave late January, early February. We went to Yugoslavia and stayed in 6 different refugee camps. And then my father had an apprentice in San Diego who sent us a sponsor letter, that's how we got to the States, to San Diego. But basically, clearly, the defining event in my life, and I think, personally, in terms of a group appreciation, I don't think I can think of anything higher than that, that experience.

Frank Koszorus: Well, I was a young child living here, so, although I have a few things to share with you during the discussion period, I think I prefer to pass the baton over to those people who participated in or were there in Hungary.

Akos Nagy shares his experiences during the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionAkos Nagy: (hard to understand his speech because of background noise, etc.) I was nine years old, in the beginning I remember a lot of friction, particularly with the police, Americans, Hungarians, who were not particularly happy with the Russians, ... Russian Embassy, they charged into us, tried to push us out of the way, ... not every week, but every months, that's basically my recollection of the late 1950s.

FK: Well, that's OK, this is enough to say what you just did if you were not there.

Les Megyeri shares his experiences during the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionLeslie Megyeri: I was in Budapest in 1956, I was 15 years old. And my father was really, really anti-communist. The reason was they locked him up for a couple of months when the revolution was started, it was the beginning of everything good, especially for an optimist. So we went around the usual places, we demonstrated, and we got the weapons from Kispest, there was a big police station there. We didn't realize they stacked all these weapons over there, in the city. I guess they were anticipating an uprising except they did nothing, the police disappeared or give the weapons to us, or the soldiers would give the weapons to us. And then later on when November 4 came around, for about a couple of weeks, people were throwing weapons into all courtyards. So every night I would have to gather the weapons and take it out to the forest. To hide them because my Mom was really scared of these weapons. Finally, people were saying, you'd better get out of here because things are starting to go bad. So we left to Austria and then we ended up in Ireland and in Ireland I never forget it, we were in a soccer stadium, there were like 40 thousand people and my father and I we stood up and they just cheered. And so when eventually we came to America 3 years later, everywhere I went, the fact that I came from Hungary, participated in 56, I mean, the Americans were just really supportive, I got a scholarship from a Congressman, I went to GW, it was just open arms, I felt always guilty, what did I really do to deserve all that that I got from America.

Maria Behr shares her experiences during the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionMaria Behr: My name is Maria Behr. I lived in Hungary in 1956. My mother brought me and my brother out. We went to live in Long Island. My main memory is that this bus took me to the school and I learnt how to find my way to the bus stop and to get home, and the only way I recognized my bus stop is by watching this girl who was getting off at my bus stop. And one morning she wasn't there. And I got on the bus and I was terrified thinking that I'd never make it home. So I started crying and the bus driver knew who I was and exactly where I lived and took the whole bus back to my house where my mother and my American aunt came running out and I told my mother what happened. So she asked would you feel better with a sign on, so I, unlike all the other children in the world who wants to be exactly like everyone else, I wanted to be different, I had a sign with my name and my address and I spoke no English.

Mrs. Behr shares her experiences during the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionMrs. Behr: I am the mother of this young lady. In 1956 I was much older than any of you gentlemen who spoke before me, because I was a young mother of two children. We lived in Budapest, I worked for the Central Chemical Research Institute of the National Academy of Sciences in Budapest. And a group of us decided that we are going to leave Budapest together and are going to establish the same institute in the West. This was in 56 November. .... We went with the institute's car and the driver came with us. We went through some small towns in Austria, then arrived in Vienna. We wanted to go to Canada but I found myself .... and eventually we came to America. I chose to come on a ship because none of us ever flew before and I thought that the young men are on the plane, and on the ship we'll be looked after with the children. And an FBI man told me that the National Academy of Sciences invited me in Camp Kilmer who will be interested that I work for the .... And I went, and I spoke English in Budapest, I had a little basis. That's how I ... and they needed me because many of the people didn't speak any English. And I got the job in Camp Kilmer and I retired from the National Academy of Sciences after 30 years. But at that time the Academy had a refugee scientist program. ...(additional part of monologue omitted as it was is very difficult to understand)

Teri Pflum shares her experiences during the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionTerry Pflum: I was born in Egypt, there was a large Hungarian community there. And I remember my parents were extremely happy and overjoyed about the possible freedom from the Russians.

But unfortunately it coincided with the war of the Suez Canal and that was a big blow to us. I remember it as a very optimistic and then a very negative thing.

Teca Takacs shares her experiences during the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionTerezia Takacs: I was a college student in 1956 so I was participating in the march to the Bem Statue, I was at the Radio station and the shootings and I climbed up to a Russian tank trying to tell the soldiers that we were not enemies and Nazis. I remember going to the Nagy Imre speech and the Russian tanks were already shooting at us and as I girlfriend and I were running, the bullet holes were following us on the wall, so I have experienced it. But who was really the freedom fighter was my husband Pali. He participated in it, he always sent me home and told me to stay at home. I didn't but he was really the one who participated with guns, they were trying to stop the Russian tanks coming to Budafok and Budapest. They were putting up barrels of oils so the tanks couldn't come and they were trying whatever they could to stop that. But also there were a few days when the revolution looked like won and they were protecting some of the communist officials, like the mayor of Budafok because they said we will have trial and nobody should be hurt, there should be no bloodshed. He and his friends were really trying to keep order in the few days of the revolution when it seemed like won. But after that he was already hiding for two three weeks at friends' houses, they were looking for him. They put my father in law in political jail, we finally had to leave. The last day of November we left early in the dark on a train. We went to Hegyeshalom, but before Hegyeshalom we got off from the train and we were hiding in the corn fields. Interestingly enough, a policeman came and showed us where to go where to see the lights, the border, and that's how we got to Austria. We came to America. My husband always wanted to go back, everything will be all right. We just came to America to see America and go back. I'm still here. We both were art students at the Iparmuveszeti Egyetem.

Per Beng-Jensen shares his experiences during the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionPer Bang-Jensen: I was living in Long Island. Early January 1957 my father was appointed to the United Nations to investigate the Hungarian revolution. So at that point he ... had to select various people to testify, 81 testified anonymously, 30 testified secretly. One of the people who testified was Imre L. Toth. One of the other people who testified was Eva Szorenyi, the actress, she testified ominously. .....(additional monologue ommitted)

My father's story at the United Nations is a long story. But, in 1991 I went back to Hungary as requested by the President, Gontz to receive a post-humus award on behalf of my father. At the time I went to the Szechenyi National Library to look at the books they had on the Hungarian revolution and the books were marked on library cards with special code meaning that prior to 1989 only members of the Communist Party could read in special rooms those books. Even looking at all the books of the world, I realized that at home I have more books in English and in Hungarian on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 than that library. And there's still a void at the National Library in the books they have, there are books that are out of print, so I kind of said, well, got a few books, made copies and sent it to them. The National Archives here sent 13 thousand pages of microfilm back to Budapest to the National Library, about 15 thousand photocopies, and 7 thousand pages from the British Archives, some from the French Archives, so this is a work process, filling many gaps that people here, Hungarians in the United States have books, have memoirs, and some of them are going to New Jersey in the Hungarian Library in Brunswick, others are wanted different places, but I think at the end of the day,
all copies should be at the National Library, that's one place that's not political, to be there for not 10 years, 100 years, but for a 1000 years, it's a project I feel very good working on. I go back to Hungary about once a year.

FK: It's great!

Maria Wood shares her experiences during the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionMaria Wood: In 56 I was living in Sopron, I am originally from Szekesfehervar. In 1950 we were sent to Sopron because we were class enemies, and I didn't realize because we lived in a house .....(?) We always listened to the radio, Free Europe, Voice of America, we children were playing outside, and when somebody came in who was not living in the house, we just had a sign, or screaming something, because ... our father from listening to it, Radio Free Europe. Then 56 came and because I was, my father had a ....(?), I couldn't go to school, not even to high school, so they sent me to the textile mill. And I was working from age 14 in 3 shifts in a textile factory. And one of the boys who was 4 years older than I was, was working there, too, but he went to evening school. So he came to me and said, Marika, there is revolution in Budapest! Oh, sure. So anyway, very shortly, Otto got involved with the Red Cross, bringing ambulances from the border here and my Mother died when I was 4 and half years old. So my father was very protective of us and not to make any mistake, he locked us in. So I was locked in the whole time with my younger brother. My older brother was in Debrecen. Otto came home in the night with his friends and I cooked potato gulash or bean soup, or whatever, we were not very rich. This was my contribution, feeding the boys. And then my brother came home from the boarding from Debrecen on the 20th November in the morning and my father said on the same evening, you have to pack. And you can only carry something like a school bag. Because tomorrow morning, on the 21st November, we are going to Austria. So that's how we ended up, on the 21st of November, in Austria. My father didn't want to go any further than Vienna. Then I lived a while in Vienna, then I ended up in the Hungarian Gymnasium in Insbruck where Frank and I were school colleages so anyway, I went there. Then I went to the University of Vienna, I studied in Vienna, I got my PhD there and I lived in Vienna happily until I became a souvenir. My husband is an American astronomer who came on tour in Vienna, it took him two years but I ended up here.
So that's my story.

But, one thing you were not there, you left already when I graduated from high school, for some stupid reason I was not really the best student in the class, it was Eva, but anyway, I was asked to say the farewell and at that time, I was thinking about it what it really meant to us Hungarians who live in the West. By 1962 there was no hope for us that we will be ever going back to Hungary. And my speech was about that everywhere that we'll go, we are carrying a responsibility with us, because people will not only judge us personally, they will also judge us as Hungarians. So we have to be very conscious of it that it's not only our action but it reflects on our country too. I hope I never embarrass my country.

FK: You are a credit.

Tamas Kun shares his experiences during the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionKun Tamas: Funeral of best friend, up to famous restaurant Sipos. Heard about demonstrations. Evening news: trouble at radio.

Finally, let's start something here. Moszkva ter, Szena ter. Got some weapons, light machine guns. In a building that was gas company, metro station. I got a rifle. Russian tanks. No problem, shoot at building, windows. Open fire. Six of them, two of them ran out, entrance of house, start shooting. (Additional monologue ommitted, hard to understand)

FK: We should discuss aspects of the revolution after the introductions once we get into the discussion.

Mrs. Schattenstein: I already lived in Washington DC in 1956. When I heard about the revolution I cried all the time.

Kati Nagy: I was a little girl. I lived in South America, in a small town called Valencia with very few Hungarian families. So I don't know when I first started knowing about 56. I guess I just grew into it. I've just known it all my life but what happened at that time I don't remember. I don't think my family was aware, but I probably should ask my father, he was probably aware of it, but I wasn't.

Murray Walpole shares his experiences during the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionMurray Walpole: I'm not Hungarian and in 56 I was only 5 years old and in Canada so I have no direct experience. But over the past 10 years during Hungarian acquisitions from the Library of Congress I've gotten to know people in Hungary and particularly my good friend, Balint Batthyany in Budapest. And in 56 he was 13, and through him and trips over there, I've gotten to know 25 or 30 of his friends who were also teenagers in 56. And this gang, as they call themselves, all ended up as teenagers in Zurich. And they became a close brotherhood of Hungarians who because of 56 ended up in Zurich. And the first year he got there, his parents were kept in Austria, he was sent to Zurich, as well as these other boys. And the first year they were there, they decided that because Hungarian was the only language they spoke, it was unlikely that there will be many use of this, so being in Zurich they learnt four other languages, French, German, English and Italian. He says he's always been grateful to Zurich for recognizing that. It's been interesting for me to meet all these men who are now in their sixties and to realize that even now most in America are quite reluctant to commit themselves to go back to Hungary and Balint is one of the few who has. And just three months ago when I was there, his mother who is 84 (end of tape)

FK: For a short period, I was at the Library of Congress assigned there, and I saw the dining room, it says Hungarian ...(?), nobody was there, I said, Hungarians are everywhere.

Imre Toth shares his experiences during the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionImre L. (Emery) Toth: Let me give a little background, too, and I'd like to say that the history of the Hungarian Revolution is individual points of view, if I were here where I sit, that's where I saw it from, so everybody has their own point of view or "from where they sit" and that's how its history has to put them together.

To give a little background on me, both my parents were refugees in the 20s from Transylvania. My father was extensively involved with the "Kisgazda Part", the Small Holders' Party. My godfather was Tildy Zoltan and, it's a long story. So I move on. After graduation for the Eotvos Lorant University of Sciences I was hired into the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. (Kulugyminiszterium.)
I wanted to be an radio engineer, but I guess, those who wanted to be in diplomatic service most likely got to be radio engineers. I spoke very good English through the gymnasium and the University too, plus Russian and some German and some French.

In 1954 I got into the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of the early graduates in there because you have to realize the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs at that time was really loaded down with a lot of party cadres, not very highly educated people. So I was one of the recent graduates among a dozen of us. I got into the Secretariat of the Minister himself. I was an advisor on press and intelligence affairs. I was received information through the top floor of the Ministry from operators of the radio and telex from 60 Hungarian embassies around the world. Working with 4 secretaries. I dictated a daily briefing to the Minister who was Boldoczky at the time. The secretaries from the stencils pulled copies for all the Desks (Departments) in the Ministry. In the Secretariat there were other specialists, advisors on various topics.

My first real impression of the Hungarian government's Foreign Policy and how it worked was a shocker to me. I was in Minister Boldoczky's office in 1954 when the phone rang and the Russian Ambassador was talking to Boldoczky, giving a direct orders of how to go about some action on foreign policy. And after he hang up I asked Boldoczky, who was actually a very kind man, and I asked, excuse me, don't you think that it should be run through the proper protocol of the government, like though the Prime Minister Office, this call is too indirect. He said well, this is how we work nowadays, later on it will change. Soviets didn't call through proper protocol of government, but they called directly from the Embassy to the Minister and I assumed other organs also.

Later on I was under Imre Horvath who was the new Minister of Foreign Affairs in 55-56, who was a very rigid, a Stalinist dogmatic communist, no friendly conversation with him. He was a party guy and even his answers were clichés.

Let me say that we had another family friend who was involved in the Small Holders' Party whose name was Jeno Szeredas. Jeno when he came out of jail, we met but we had to meet clandestinely because I wasn't sure if the Ministry or the AVH was not watching me. We usually met at a third party, mutual friends, where I was courting a young lady at the time. (Mostly for cover). In the previous years after Stalin's death, with Jeno, too, we frequently discussed these political changes, tried to figure out what reforms are possible. The hope came into our life after the Rakosi terror was weakened, during Rakosi's time I myself spent many weeks in AVH jail too, but I was rehabilitated afterwards, since I was innocent of the charges. I'd like to point out that there you had to prove your innocence (the hard way). I volunteered to work for a while on building the new Metro, in caissons, that is under 2 atmospheric pressures with a sledgehammer, 54 meters underground at the Vorosmarty Square Metro Station. This was part of my rehabilitation.

You gathered that I had to be very careful about my career and even with that I was a fairly outspoken person even in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as always. It was always how you constructed your opinions so it was not negative or offensive, rather constructive opinion.

On October 23rd I was at work in the Ministry and I was aware of the demonstration originally organized by the "Petofi Kor" of reform oriented communists or socialists. The back side of the Ministry at that time, it is now the front side, it overlooks Bem Square. As I looked through the second story window and I saw the swelling of 20-30,000 people, that was like a magnet to draw me to the square. I knew that I risk my career but I just walked out of the Ministry and I joined, I couldn't help myself to join and the sweet swell of freedom overtook my fear. I was swept away emotionally hoping for a better tomorrow. From there we marched enthusiastically to the Parliament, it was dark when we all got there. At the big square in the front of the Parliament in darkness, all of us who had matches, lighters lit up newspapers, candles or just any paper we had in our pocket to signal that we are there to stay for answers. Then came Imre Nagy speech which was somewhat disappointing. The rumor was that he had a gun at his back. I noticed that some of the people went to the Stalin statue but I went with the student committee and the majority of the people to the Radio to try to read those 16 points which I felt were more important for the country to know. The feeling that if we go home these points will never get into the radio's program. At the Radio it was fairly late in the evening by then, the crowd was so thick and so large. I've never seen so many enthusiastic people in one place, there were tens of thousands. I was about 25 to 30 yards from the Radio. And hundreds of people ahead of me and thousands beyond me. They would not let us read the 16 points, instead, they broadcast Party Secretary Gero's speech calling us hooligans and other names. There was no fear of the regime any longer - it was replaced in us with rage and fearless patriotic actions. When finally the shooting started you couldn't go back and couldn't go forward. We were shouting and after a while they got some guns from some soldiers and policemen and started to shoot back. Some people were shouting let's go to the Lamp Factory!. Most of us didn't know, why do you want to go to the Lamp Factory? Well, that was the cover name for the weapons factory what the communists used for to confuse people, which was located on the Soroksari Road towards Csepel.

It was almost dawn by the time they got enough weapons. By that time there were scores of people dead and cars burning... And the AVH was shooting out of the doors, naturally the Radio was saying that we were shooting in, and we didn't even have enough guns to do so. Part of the crowd and me started toward the Parliament again to see if we can get some political statements from someone again explaining the madness we witnessed. There was none. Anyhow I don't want to go too deeply into it.

On the 25th I with several friends went to the Parliament to join that day the march to the Parlament. As we were standing in the ground in the front of the building we noticed that people were getting on the roof of the parament. We watched with interest. But suddenly machine gun firing started from the roof of the Parlament and behind us Russian tanks shooting into the crowd. Instinctively we took off running ziz-zaging to get away from the cross fire, toward the bank of the Danube and bridge away from the building.

Later in the afternoon, I went back to the Ministry very angry. In the auditorium there was a large meeting in mid afternoon after Minister Imre Horvath announced that he is leaving the post and the country. He left with a Russian armored vehicle which took him to the airport. As the crowd, the staff were together and I jumped on a chair and I shouted still angry, that everywhere they are organizing revolutionary committees and I talked to mostly the younger ones. Mind you, there were only 35 of us who were not members of the party among 800 people in the Ministry. And all of us were members of the DISZ (demokrata ifjusagi szovetseg). And this young group supported me! The people held an election, we called it an election, and I was elected to be the Secretary of the Revolutionary Committee for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.. Some of the older people, the head of the civilian personnel nominated Mod Peter to the Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee. He was 45 or 46 and the other nominee was Szarka Karoly who was again in his late forties.Their argument was that they were more experienced than I at 25! So the three of us made the Hungarian Revolutionary Committee for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Later that afternoon, by that time we changed from "elvtars" to "bajtars", and they said, Toth Bajtars, there are a couple of soldiers looking for you in the lobby. So I went down and I found my brother, Frank there and a bunch of soldiers and three truck loads of various weapons, Kalisnikovs, machine guns and live ammunition. He left Kecskemet with an order to deliver this to Budapest to some base but on their way they heard enough news about fighting so they decided to switch to the revolution's side. Frank, my brother said to them, I know my brother is in the Ministry, let's go there. Just around the corner there was the Bem Military house there, so I kept some weapons for the Ministry, I took a Kalisnikov plus a 9 mm on my side. Later on I kept it in my office and Frank with his soldiers delivered the rest to the Bem Military Laktanya. Later on Szeredas Jeno and the Szena Square gang used those weapons and got those weapons in their hands.

There is a long story what we did in the Ministry I don't want to go into it. The political situation changed hourly. There were a lot of frustration in trying to carry out orders toward embassies. Ordering Kos Peter back from the UN as Hungary representative. The intrigue in the Ministry was tiring. From that day on I stayed day and night at the Ministry, leaving for meetings only.

FC: Actually, I would like to talk about your experiences when you got into the revolutionary government, not necessary about the fighting.

Imre L. Toth: When the Imre Nagy government moved out of the Party HQ House and moved into the Parliament, that's when new government additions were selected, that's where Tildy Zoltan was there too. Tildy Zoltan, Kovacs Bela and Erdei were appointed into the government. Shortly afterward we had some short discussion with Zoltan bacsi.

There were three non-communists, Tildy, Kovacs and Erdei from the Farmers Party (Paraszt Part). The directive was that confusion was in the West because about 30 Hungarian Ambassadors were talking about counter-revolution in Budapest confusing the West, Asia to America, not even mentioning the United Nations. Various statements, they didn't know what to say so they asked the Soviet counterparts and they said, counter-revolution in Hungary. One of the first things what we did, the three of us all signed the order, sharing responsibility, we ordered 30 different ambassadors to stand down and wait for future directives, or call back for consultation but not to make any more statements to the press. Most of those orders did not reach their destinations, we did not know why, so we were following up on the telephone.

Let me say that the top floor, the third floor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Bem Rakpart side was a communication center where we had a big radio, an antenna out in the outskirts of Budapest toward Monor where we communicated with all these embassies through cryptic radio messages. And we had teletypes what was open communication centers again, we sent orders, documents up there to the top floor. That was closed to even the staff, "to make sure they don't do any damage to the equipment". One needed special clearance to enter there. These orders never went out and I found out through another party who was in communications and this was on the 28th, he said, Imre, you know that all the outside lines that goes out of the ministry to foreign countries is listened to by AVH personnel?. There are 3 to 4 AVH up there, controlling all of the international communications! I certainly did not know, but Mod Peter was delivering documents up there since he had the clearance. By that time we figured this out, Dudas actually heavily criticized the Ministry that nothing is happening or too slow in the international arena. There was confusion out in the West! We found out that most of those orders didn't go out, they were held back or altered/destroyed.. And that's when I called Szena Ter and I asked them to sent out some soldiers, I said there are some AVH personnel in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Anyhow, to cut the long story short, the AVH, the four of them came down from the communication center and my office was right at top of the stairs, they already knew who I was! But from whom? One, really nasty guy among them put his gun under my chin threatening to kill me and calling me various names.. My weapons were under my desk and the sidearm in the desk drawer. There were really scary minutes!

But by that time they heard, through the staircase that some Hungarian revolutionary soldiers came in looking for AVH people. So they started to run away the other direction. There was a back entrance on the other side of the Ministry to Bem Rakpart. So they escaped that way. I was following them a safe distance to find out where they are heading.

Then some more fighters arrived from Szena Ter. The soldiers from inside were shooting at them. The outsiders were shooting at the soldiers inside at windows. Dangerous confusion, people inside were frightened and taking cover. The AVH guys already left.
Someone called the Parlament "The Ministry is under siege!" Imre Nagy office instructed Kiraly Bela to free the Hungarian Foreign Ministry because the AVH is attacking it. It was actually a firefight between three groups, Kiraly Bela's troops and two groups from Szena Ter!

I had to stay about a block away, since it was fierce firing like the WW II broke out. It was a very dangerous situation. Afterwards, Kiraly Bela settled it down and sorted out the situation. I owe gratitude to all of them specially General Kiraly to save my life.

(Kiraly Bela was 45 at the time, right now he's 95 and injured, he broke his collar bone, in Hungary. Anybody who wants to send him a get well card I can give you his address. There are a lot more episodes and double crossing by Mod and Szarka to contain the radical revolutionary, me.... but that's another story!
Anyhow, my time is up.

Zsuzsa Toth shares her experiences during the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionZsuzsa Toth: The year 1956 is important for me for two reasons. One is that I was born in that year, right before the revolution and the other is because of my husband's involvement with 1956. I was a baby during the revolution, I didn't know much about it during my childhood which was very nice in Hungary. Then in 1985 I met Imre in Budapest and we married in 1987. I have been here ever since.

Bryan Dawson-Szilagyi shares his experiences during the 1956 Hungarian RevolutionBryan Dawson-Szilagyi: I wasn’t even born, but I think I learned an important lesson about hate and human nature, that there is good an bad in everything. My mother was wounded by schrapnel in her side when a companion stepped on a landmine and was killed. She told me the story of escaping through fields, hiding during the day, and traveling at night, again hiding from Soviet flares. Her group was caught at the border by a Soviet platoon. Rather than obey orders to shoot, the platoon leader saw my mother was wounded and escorted her and her group across the border to freedom. That is a story I will never forget and helped shaped me into who I am today. We must all remember what 1956 stood for and who fought the revolution. It was a story of unity and common purpose where everyone took part for the common good: intellectuals, workers, young and old, men and women. I hope we can all learn that lesson, support each other, and finally unify in honor of those that sacrificed everything for that unity.

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Do you need a Website to help you get the word out on your 1956 plans?

www.hungary1956.com The American Hungarian Federation is sponsoring the Hungary 1956 Portal as part of its goals to coordinate and assist member organizations across the country as it continues plans for kicking off a year of events leading up to October 2006. The 1956 Portal will serve as a central information resource on 1956 as our community prepares for this important milestone. Includes many photos as well as Audio and Video files!

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"Five Days of Freedom in Budapest" - "Budapest is in revolt. With uncontrolled fury, crowds set fire to Russian flags... The impossible has happened. A handful of heroes has shaken the communist world to its foundations." (5.2 Mb)
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